Report from Governmental Affairs

Join the Student Debt Week of Action

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New attorneys, like other professionals across the country, are struggling under the weight of their student loan debt. They need our help to urge Congress and the Biden Administration to provide much-needed relief. That is why the ABA is hosting a Student Debt Week of Action from September 20-24 and we want you to join us.

The scope of the problem

The statistics vividly demonstrate the scope of the problem. About 45 million individuals currently hold approximately $1.7 trillion in outstanding student loan obligations. According to a survey conducted by the Young Lawyers Division, 97% of young lawyers require loans to afford their legal education, and 75% graduate with over $100k in debt. Moreover, 40% of young attorneys currently have more debt than when they graduated, even after making large monthly payments, due to exorbitant interest rates.

Burdensome debt has significant negative impact on the personal and professional lives of borrowers as well as on the economy. Student loan debt has real-world effects on the economy and on major life decisions. For example, 56% of young attorneys surveyed postponed or didn’t purchase a home; 46% postponed or didn’t purchase an automobile; and 17% compromised their job choice due to high level of debt.

Student Debt Week of Action: What to expect

The ABA is working with other professional organizations to plan short, informative online events during the week of September 20-24, highlighted by calls-to-action that provide you with the opportunity to communicate directly with your elected officials using our Congressional Messaging Portal. Each day will be focused on a specific aspect of student debt:

  • Monday, Sep. 20: Diagnosing the Problem
  • Tuesday, Sep. 21: Impact on the Economy
  • Wednesday, Sep. 22: Impact on Mental Health
  • Thursday, Sep. 23: Public Service Loan Forgiveness and How it Fits in the Equation
  • Friday, Sep. 24: Recap, Review, and What Comes Next

Monday, Thursday and Friday will include short broadcast elements with messages from ABA leaders, industry experts, and the Members of Congress actively working to address the student debt problem, including Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). These will be concise programs that will last from 15-25 minutes and include instructions on how you can use ABA tools to directly connect with your elected officials. These broadcast elements will be held on the ABA website and ABA Grassroots social media channels. No need to have an account; just search for @ABAGrassroots on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram to watch.

You will also have several opportunities to engage on social media across Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn throughout the week. Visit the website for an ongoing schedule of events and to access toolkits to help with your advocacy.

We need action now

Our goal is to educate federal lawmakers on the magnitude of the problem and urge them to take action now to provide immediate and lasting student debt relief. While every professional organization will tailor its advocacy approach to the needs of their members, we encourage ABA members to personalize our preformatted message to tell your story and urge the Biden Administration and Congress to do the following:

  1. Forgive some amount of student loan debt;
  2. Offer borrowers the ability to refinance their federal student loans at lower interest rates, and extend the current student loan forbearance period;
  3. Support the FRESH START through Bankruptcy Act of 2021, recently introduced by Senators Durbin and Cornyn; and
  4. Strengthen the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program

We hope you will join the ABA and other professionals interested in student loan relief for our Student Debt Week of Action. Working together, we can magnify our collective voices to urge the Administration and Congress that the time for action is now!

Please visit our website for more information and follow us on social media at @ABAGrassroots for ongoing updates. 

This report is written by the ABA’s Governmental Affairs Office and discusses advocacy efforts by the ABA.

This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.

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